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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Global Warming Environmental Justice Allowance Reserve

AAEA believes climate change legislation and regulation will need to address environmental justice concerns related to the perception that emission trading programs cause disproportionate pollution from older, dirtier plants to negatively impact low-income and minority communities. There is also widespread belief that global warming and climate change will disproportionately affect low-income and minority communities. Some environmental justice groups oppose cap-and-trade programs.

AAEA is recommending an Environmental Justice Allowance Reserve (EJAR) to address the racial 'Hot Spots' issue. These allowances would come from a special reserve, similar to the current Acid Rain Program Renewable Energy and Conservation Reserve, when the initial allowance allocation is made. They would be awarded to utilities, automakers and others that undertake environmental justice practices and programs designed to mitigate or prevent price shocks, increase the installation of pollution control equipment, promote community education and enhance health-related activities. Utilities and automakers could choose to work with organizations and businesses that conduct environmental justice activities related to climate change mitigation and reductions in emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and mercury.

As an alternative to legislation and as an insurance policy in case climate change legislation does not pass, AAEA has developed a voluntary EJAR program that provides a platform for utilities, automakers and communities to address and influence the Hot Spots issue. Any utility, automaker or citizen can: sell to, donate or purchase compliance allowances from, the voluntary AAEA-EJAR or otherwise support the EJAR program.

AAEA is currently meeting with interested stakeholders to develop EJAR projects. AAEA has also developed emissions trading platforms to directly facilitate exchanges. The Green Carbon Bank (GCB) and the Carbon Mercantile Exchange (CMX) are available to facilitate United Nations Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and other emission free projects. AAEA has been registered int the EPA Acid Rain Program for years.

The AAEA EJAR program will leverage allowances and resources to promote environmental justice practices and projects designed to:

1. Increase the installation of pollution control equipment,
2. Promote community education and
3. Enhance health-related activities.

AAEA will alert businesses, mayors, states, civil rights groups, environmental justice organizations, Congress and the general public about innovative methods for participating in this program, enhancing electricity production, auto emissions reductions and protecting constituent communities.

Allowances are fully marketable commodities. Once allocated, allowances may be bought, sold, traded, or banked for use in future years. Allowances may not be used for compliance prior to the calendar year for which they are allocated.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Declaration for Healthy Food & Agriculture

Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture

We, the undersigned, believe that a healthy food system is necessary to meet the urgent challenges of our time. Behind us stands a half-century of industrial food production, underwritten by cheap fossil fuels, abundant land and water resources, and a drive to maximize the global harvest of cheap calories. Ahead lie rising energy and food costs, a changing climate, declining water supplies, a growing population, and the paradox of widespread hunger and obesity.

These realities call for a radically different approach to food and agriculture. We believe that the food system must be reorganized on a foundation of health: for our communities, for people, for animals, and for the natural world. The quality of food, and not just its quantity, ought to guide our agriculture. The ways we grow, distribute, and prepare food should celebrate our various cultures and our shared humanity, providing not only sustenance, but justice, beauty and pleasure.

Governments have a duty to protect people from malnutrition, unsafe food, and exploitation, and to protect the land and water on which we depend from degradation. Individuals, producers, and organizations have a duty to create regional systems that can provide healthy food for their communities. We all have a duty to respect and honor the laborers of the land without whom we could not survive. The changes we call for here have begun, but the time has come to accelerate the transformation of our food and agriculture and make its benefits available to all.

We believe that the following twelve principles should frame food and agriculture policy, to ensure that it will contribute to the health and wealth of the nation and the world. A healthy food and agriculture policy:

1.Forms the foundation of secure and prosperous societies, healthy communities, and healthy people.
2.Provides access to affordable, nutritious food to everyone.
3.Prevents the exploitation of farmers, workers, and natural resources; the domination of genomes and markets; and the cruel treatment of animals, by any nation, corporation or individual.
4.Upholds the dignity, safety, and quality of life for all who work to feed us.
5.Commits resources to teach children the skills and knowledge essential to food production, preparation, nutrition, and enjoyment.
6.Protects the finite resources of productive soils, fresh water, and biological diversity.
7.Strives to remove fossil fuel from every link in the food chain and replace it with renewable resources and energy.
8.Originates from a biological rather than an industrial framework.
9.Fosters diversity in all its relevant forms: diversity of domestic and wild species; diversity of foods, flavors and traditions; diversity of ownership.
10.Requires a national dialog concerning technologies used in production, and allows regions to adopt their own respective guidelines on such matters.
11.Enforces transparency so that citizens know how their food is produced, where it comes from, and what it contains.
12. Promotes economic structures and supports programs to nurture the development of just and sustainable regional farm and food networks.

Our pursuit of healthy food and agriculture unites us as people and as communities, across geographic boundaries, and social and economic lines. We pledge our votes, our purchases, our creativity, and our energies to this urgent cause.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Agriculture in Central Asia

Agriculture in Central Asia constitutes at least 20% of the GDP of every Central Asian country with the lone exception of Kazakhstan. Despite this, in all of the Central Asian countries, at least 20% of the labor force is employed in agriculture.

By far the two most significant crops in Central Asia are cotton and wheat. Only Kazakhstan and Mongolia do not cultivate significant amounts of cotton. This emphasis on intensive cotton cultivation in the Amu Darya watershed countries of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan has played a major role in the drying and polluting of the Aral Sea because of the large amounts of water and fertilizer used in cotton cultivation.

The cultivation of wheat has also contributed to regional environmental issues, starting with the Virgin Lands Campaign during the Soviet era. Because the precautionary measures taken to preserve soil quality when the campaign began were insufficient, the soil eroded and its nutrients became degraded by excessive mono-crop cultivation. This history continues to impact grain production today, particularly in Kazakhstan.

Aside from these two primary crops, the region produces a wide variety of products which include barley, corn, flax, grapes, potatoes, rice, sugar beets, sunflowers, tobacco, apricots, pears, plums, apples, cherries, pomegranates, melons, dates, figs, sesame, pistachios, and nuts.

Animal husbandry constitutes a large part of Central Asian agriculture. Cattle, goats, sheep, pigs, chickens, and horses are raised in the area. Some famous local breeds include the Karakul sheep and Akhal-Teke horse. Some regions also cultivate mulberry trees and silkworms.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Environment and Employment policies

More than the sum of their parts: the links between environment and employment policies

Environment policies contribute to job creation and social inclusion in the EU. Studies show that environmental policy is not a job-killer but instead has neutral or even mildly positive impact on the number of people in work. This is especially the case with new policies that support the development and use of new environmental technologies, such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme and the Environmental Technologies Action Plan. There is also a clear link between social inclusion and the quality of the environment. Just now, it is often Europe’s poorest who suffer most from pollution, and so gain most from environmental improvements. Other links exist in areas such as health and safety at work, and quality of jobs. In short: environment policies can contribute to employment objectives and vice versa, in line with the concept of sustainable development. These potential win-win solutions need to be sought and promoted whenever possible.

Analysis on the wider links between the environment and employment

Most studies have in the past concentrated on employment in the eco-industries. However, a study completed in 2007 shows that there are strong links between the economy and the environment that go far beyond the narrow definition of eco-industries traditionally measured. For example, a good quality environment supports many sectors in the economy and this is not usually captured in the statistics. Broadly:

  • narrow definition of the eco-industries (largely pollution prevention or treatment): 2.3 million people and € 270 billion of turnover;
  • moving to a definition that includes activities closely dependent on a good quality environment (environment-related tourism, sustainable forestry, organic agriculture, renewable energy etc): 4.4 million people and € 405 billion of turnover;
  • including induced 'knock-on' or 'multiplier' effects that ripple through the economy thanks to this direct expenditure would boost this to 8.6 million people and € 1 trillion of turnover;
  • moving to the widest definition that includes all activities dependent on the environment (all agriculture, renewable energy etc): 21 million people and € 3 trillion of turnover. (In other words, almost 1 in 10 jobs in the EU is somehow linked to the environment.) Including indirect effects would increase this to one in six people.

The study also includes analysis of the impact of environmental policies on jobs and employment (changes in energy efficiency, Structural Fund spending etc). It finds that environmental policies are unlikely to provide a drag on the economy, and may easily prove to be a source of new jobs and innovation, a driver of progress, whilst also helping increase the health of our economies and wellbeing of societies.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Environment and Internal Market

The EU's sustainable development strategy applies to all fields of policy, including the internal market. The key factor when it comes to integrating environmental concerns into the EU's internal market policy is the need to find a balanced approach between the free movement of goods and environmental protection. The increasing openness of the market is sometimes perceived as a threat to the quality of Europe's environment. By the same token, environmental standards are often seen as barriers to market access. Finding a way to integrate these two policy areas is the main challenge facing Europe's policy-makers.

The EU's internal market integration strategy, adopted in 2001, sets out a series of objectives, actions and indicators, and was the first step towards this goal. The strategy is implemented through existing EU legislation in areas such as standardisation, public procurement, eco-labelling, taxation, environmental agreements, state aid, and industry and product policy.

Other important initiatives include a review of the Community framework for state aid for environmental protection and the European Commission's Interpretative Communication on public procurement and the environment. This examines and clarifies the possibilities offered by existing rules for improving environmental protection in public procurement. The Commission is currently preparing a handbook on how to 'green' public procurement.

A general review of the EU's integration strategy is currently underway. The Commission is also working on a Recommendation on the greening of financial information.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Impact of climate change on agriculture

Despite technological advances, such as improved varieties, genetically modified organisms, and irrigation systems, weather is still a key factor in agricultural productivity, as well as soil properties and natural communities. The effect of climate on agriculture is related to variabilities in local climates rather than in global climate patterns. Consequently, agronomists consider any assessment has to be individually consider each local area.

On the other hand, agricultural trade has grown in recent years, and now provides significant amounts of food, on a national level to major importing countries, as well as comfortable income to exporting ones. The international aspect of trade and security in terms of food implies the need to also consider the effects of climate change on a global scale.

A study published in Science suggest that, due to climate change, "southern Africa could lose more than 30% of its main crop, maize, by 2030. In South Asia losses of many regional staples, such as rice, millet and maize could top 10%".

The 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report concluded that the poorest countries would be hardest hit, with reductions in crop yields in most tropical and sub-tropical regions due to decreased water availability, and new or changed insect pest incidence. In Africa and Latin America many rainfed crops are near their maximum temperature tolerance, so that yields are likely to fall sharply for even small climate changes; falls in agricultural productivity of up to 30% over the 21st century are projected. Marine life and the fishing industry will also be severely affected in some places.

Climate change induced by increasing greenhouse gases is likely to affect crops differently from region to region. For example, average crop yield is expected to drop down to 50% in Pakistan according to the UKMO scenario whereas corn production in Europe is expected to grow up to 25% in optimum hydrologic conditions.

More favourable effects on yield tend to depend to a large extent on realization of the potentially beneficial effects of carbon dioxide on crop growth and increase of efficiency in water use. Decrease in potential yields is likely to be caused by shortening of the growing period, decrease in water availability and poor vernalization.

In the long run, the climatic change could affect agriculture in several ways :

* productivity, in terms of quantity and quality of crops
* agricultural practices, through changes of water use (irrigation) and agricultural inputs such as herbicides, insecticides and fertilizers
* environmental effects, in particular in relation of frequency and intensity of soil drainage (leading to nitrogen leaching), soil erosion, reduction of crop diversity
* rural space, through the loss and gain of cultivated lands, land speculation, land renunciation, and hydraulic amenities.
* adaptation, organisms may become more or less competitive, as well as humans may develop urgency to develop more competitive organisms, such as flood resistant or salt resistant varieties of rice.

They are large uncertainties to uncover, particularly because there is lack of information on many specific local regions, and include the uncertainties on magnitude of climate change, the effects of technological changes on productivity, global food demands, and the numerous possibilities of adaptation.

Most agronomists believe that agricultural production will be mostly affected by the severity and pace of climate change, not so much by gradual trends in climate. If change is gradual, there may be enough time for biota adjustment. Rapid climate change, however, could harm agriculture in many countries, especially those that are already suffering from rather poor soil and climate conditions, because there is less time for optimum natural selection and adaption.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Global warming

Global warming is the increase in the average measured temperature of the Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century, and its projected continuation.

The average global air temperature near the Earth's surface increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the 100 years ending in 2005. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concludes "most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-twentieth century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic (man-made) greenhouse gas concentrations" via an enhanced greenhouse effect. Natural phenomena such as solar variation combined with volcanoes probably had a small warming effect from pre-industrial times to 1950 and a small cooling effect from 1950 onward.

These basic conclusions have been endorsed by at least 30 scientific societies and academies of science, including all of the national academies of science of the major industrialized countries. While individual scientists have voiced disagreement with some findings of the IPCC, the overwhelming majority of scientists working on climate change agree with the IPCC's main conclusions.

Climate model projections summarized by the IPCC indicate that average global surface temperature will likely rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the twenty-first century. This range of values results from the use of differing scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions as well as models with differing climate sensitivity. Although most studies focus on the period up to 2100, warming and sea level rise are expected to continue for more than a thousand years even if greenhouse gas levels are stabilized. The delay in reaching equilibrium is a result of the large heat capacity of the oceans.

Increasing global temperature is expected to cause sea level to rise, an increase in the intensity of extreme weather events, and significant changes to the amount and pattern of precipitation, likely leading to an expanse of tropical areas and increased pace of desertification. Other expected effects of global warming include changes in agricultural yields, modifications of trade routes, glacier retreat, species extinctions and increases in the ranges of disease vectors.

Remaining scientific uncertainties include the amount of warming expected in the future, and how warming and related changes will vary from region to region around the globe. Most national governments have signed and ratified the Kyoto Protocol aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but there is ongoing political and public debate worldwide regarding what, if any, action should be taken to reduce or reverse future warming or to adapt to its expected consequences.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Environmental impact

Agriculture may often cause environmental problems because it changes natural environments and produces harmful by-products. Some of the negative effects are:

* Loss of biodiversity
* Surplus of nitrogen and phosphorus in rivers and lakes
* Detrimental effects of herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and other biocides
* Conversion of natural ecosystems of all types into arable land
* Consolidation of diverse biomass into a few species
* Soil erosion
* Deforestation
* Depletion of minerals in the soil
* Particulate matter, including ammonia and ammonium off-gassing from animal waste contributing to air pollution
* Air pollution from farm equipment powered by fossil fuels
* Weed Science - feral plants and animals
* Odor from agricultural waste
* Soil salination
* Water crisis

According to the United Nations, the livestock sector (primarily cows, chickens, and pigs) emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to our most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. Livestock production occupies 70% of all land used for agriculture, or 30% of the land surface of the planet.It is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases—responsible for 18% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalents. By comparison, all transportation emits 13.5% of the CO2. It produces 65% of human-related nitrous oxide (which has 296 times the global warming potential of CO2) and 37% of all human-induced methane (which is 23 times as warming as CO2). It also generates 64% of the ammonia, which contributes to acid rain and acidification of ecosystems.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Natural environment

The natural environment, commonly referred to simply as the environment, is a terminology that comprises all living and non-living things that occur naturally on Earth or some region thereof. This term includes a few key components:

1. Complete ecological units that function as natural systems without massive human intervention, including all vegetation, animals, microorganisms, rocks, atmosphere and natural phenomena that occur within their boundaries.
2. Universal natural resources and physical phenomena that lack clear-cut boundaries, such as air, water, and climate, as well as energy, radiation, electric charge, and magnetism, not originating from human activity.

The natural environment is contrasted with the built environment, which comprises the areas and components that are strongly influenced by man. A geographical area is regarded as a natural environment if the human impact on it is kept under a certain limited level. This level depends on the specific context, and changes in different areas and contexts. The term wilderness, on the other hand, refers to areas without human intervention.